BSWN launches major new report on Bristol’s VCSE sector future beyond COVID-19

Designing a New Social Reality report by Black South West Network
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Black South West Network (BSWN)
18 March, 2021


Black South West Network (BSWN) has launched an important new report focusing on Bristol’s voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) sector and its recovery after COVID-19.

The report, called Designing a New Social Reality: The Future of the Bristol Voluntary, Community & Social Enterprise Sector Beyond COVID-19, was created by Chiara Lodi, Angelique Retief and Aderonke Osuntokun of BSWN, in partnership with Voscur and Locality, and funded by Power To Change Trust, Bristol City Council and Quartet Community Foundation.

It was officially launched last night at an online event organised by BSWN and Voscur, and attended by over 200 people working in or with the VCSE sector. The launch event included a panel discussion and an overview of VCSE Strategy development, inviting all participants to think about what they could do to support this strategic planning.

Designing a New Social Reality is based on nine months of research, using insight from over 300 organisations and city representatives on the sector’s response to COVID-19, and how that can inform a sector-wide strategy for recovery that looks ahead to the future. Research methods included a survey, joining existing virtual meetings organised by VCSE sector organisations, focus group sessions, interviews, and visioning sessions. An interim report was also published during the research period.

Using an equalities framework to address underrepresentation, different needs and systemic disadvantage, the report recognises that there will be varying outcomes, and that representatives from equalities groups needed to engage with the report and its context. This included organisations led by Black and Asian people, disabled people, faith groups, LGBT+ people, older people, single parents, women, and younger people. 

The report states that:

‘Tens of thousands of lives have been lost, disproportionately so amongst Black and Asian heritage communities, disabled people, older people and those living in areas of socio-economic disadvantage…

It is undeniable that COVID-19 and the lockdown have thrown into stark relief the inequalities that have existed in our society for many hundreds of years. Inequalities that, despite innumerable initiatives and campaigns to address them, persist to this day at a deeply structural level. In reflecting on this reality, we are seeking to explore and understand how we build new ways of working that focus on the root causes of inequality and not just the symptoms.’

Key findings from Designing a New Social Reality

There were eight key recommendations in the report:

  1. Cultural shift towards equity.
  2. Fund and commission equitably.
  3. Fund and commission for the long-term.
  4. Create a democratic forum.
  5. Build community agency.
  6. Asset-based mapping.
  7. Develop a digital inclusion strategy.
  8. Create a shared vision.

Sado Jirde, Director of BSWN, said last night:

“We need to move to being an indispensable part of the city and communicate the sector’s successes, and raise awareness on the true meaning of equity… The notion about representation in decision-making is important. We can see where the sector can significantly contribute.”

Chiara Lodi, co-author of the report and Policy & Research Officer at BSWN, said at the launch event:

“It feels like there is a leadership structure in place, but it needs to be reorganised to ensure we have representation. We also want to establish a One City Board. We need a flexible framework to provide community agency – the sector is even more diverse when we look at the informal side of it. We have groups with different missions and intentions, but we also must provide support for groups that want to scale up.”

How to get involved in designing the new VCSE Strategy

Once you've read the report, look out for future invitations to share your thoughts and respond to VCSE Strategy ideas – this may be through surveys, emails, or other forms of consultation. As BSWN, Voscur, Thomas Pocklington Trust and other organisations have made clear, it is vital that we make this inclusive, so that all equalities groups have the chance to share their experiences and views.